The Spiritual Man, CFP, Vol. 3, Part 10 THE BODY, Ch. 1, by Watchman Nee
WE SHOULD KNOW what place our physical body occupies in the purpose and plan of God. Can anyone deny the relationship between the body and spirituality? In addition to a spirit and a soul we also have a body. However healthy may be the intuition, communion and conscience of our spirit and however renewed the emotion, mind and will of our soul, we can never develop into spiritual men and women—never be perfected but continually lacking in some way—if our body is not as sound and restored as are our spirit and soul. We should not neglect our outer shell while attending to our inner components. Our life shall suffer if we commit this blunder.
The body is necessary and important; otherwise God would not have created man with one. By accurately searching the Scriptures we can discover how much attention God pays to man’s body, for the Bible has a lot to say about it. Most singular and awesome of all is the fact that the Word became flesh: the Son of God took upon Himself a body of flesh and blood: and though He died He wears this garb forever.
Romans 8.10-13 unfolds to us the condition of our body, how the Holy Spirit helps it, and what ought to be our right attitude towards it. If we appropriate these verses we will not misunderstand the place of a believer’s body in God’s plan of redemption.
“If Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness” (v.10). Initially both our body and spirit were dead; but after we believed in the Lord Jesus we received Him into us to be our life. The fact that Christ by the Holy Spirit lives in the believer forms one of the essential tenets of the gospel. Every child of God, however weak, has Christ dwelling in him. This Christ is our life. And when He enters to make His abode in us, our spirit is made alive. Formerly both the spirit and the body were dead; now the spirit is quickened, leaving only the body dead. The estate common to every believer is that his body is dead but his spirit is alive.
This experience produces a wide disparity between the Christian’s inward and outward state. Our inner being is flowing with life while the outer man is still full of death. Being full of the Spirit of life we are very much alive, yet we exist in a shell of death; in other words, the life of our spirit and the life of our body are radically unalike. The former is life indeed, but the latter is verily death. This is because our physical frame is still the “body of sin”: no matter how advanced a Christian’s spiritual walk is, his flesh is nonetheless the “body of sin.” We have yet to possess a resurrected, glorious, spiritual frame; “the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8.23) awaits us in the future. Today’s body is just an “earthen vessel,” an “earthly tent,” a “lowly body” (2 Cor. 4.7, 5.1; Phil. 3.21). Sin has been driven out of the spirit and the will but it has not been expunged from the body. Because sin remains there, it is therefore dead. This is the purport of “your bodies are dead because of sin.” Simultaneously, however, our spirit is alive. Or to phrase it more correctly, our spirit receives life because of the righteousness which is in Christ. When we trust in Him we receive Him as our righteousness and we also are justified by God. The former is Christ imparting to us His very Self (a substantive transaction); the latter is God justifying us for Christ’s sake (a legal transaction). Without the impartation there can be no justification. The moment we receive Christ we obtain the legal position of being justified before God and additionally the practical experience of having Christ imparted to us. Christ comes into us as life so that our dead spirit may be made alive. This is the import of “your spirits are alive because of righteousness.”
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you” (v.11). Verse 10 explains how God quickens our spirit; this verse tells us how God gives life to our body. The tenth verse speaks of the spirit being made alive, with the body still dead; the eleventh verse goes further by saying that after the spirit is made alive the body too may live. The first part announces that the spirit lives because of Christ dwelling in us; this part declares that the body will live because of the Holy Spirit abiding in us. The Holy Spirit will give life to our bodies.
The body is dead not in the sense that this outer shell is, but in the sense that it is traveling towards the grave; spiritually speaking it is counted as dead. According to man’s thought the body possesses life; yet according to God even that life is death because it is abounding with sins—“your bodies are dead because of sin.” On the one hand, although there is strength in the body we must not permit it to be manifested. It should not have any activity, for the activation of its life is but death. Sin is its life, and sin is spiritual death. The body lives by spiritual death. On the other hand, we know we should witness, serve and labor for God. These require bodily strength. Now inasmuch as the body is spiritually dead and its life is nothing but death, how then can we ever engage it to respond to the demands of spiritual life without concomitantly drawing upon its death-life? It is obvious that our body cannot and will not do the will of the Spirit of life within but will oppose and fight against Him. How can the Holy Spirit therefore induce our body to answer His call? He must Himself give life to our bodies of death.
The One “who raised Christ Jesus from the dead” is God. Why is He not directly named? It is to emphasize the work which God did in raising the Lord Jesus from the dead. It aims at calling the attention of believers to the feasibility of God raising their mortal bodies since God hitherto has raised the dead body of Jesus. The Apostle indirectly says this Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit, Who also is the Spirit of resurrection. He again employs the word “if”—“if the Spirit of Him . . . dwells in you he . . . will give life to your mortal bodies.” He is not doubting that the Holy Spirit is in the believer, for he mentions in verse 9 that anyone belonging to Christ has the Spirit of Christ. What he means is: you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you; therefore your mortal bodies should experience His life. This is the privilege shared by all who possess the indwelling Spirit. He does not wish any saint to miss this blessing through ignorance.
This verse in reality teaches that if the Spirit of God abides in us, then through this indwelling Power God also gives life to our mortal bodies. It is not speaking of a future resurrection because that is not the subject here. It simply compares the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with our receiving life today in our body. If the verse were touching upon resurrection it would use the term “the body of death”; but only the mortal body is in view here, one which is subject to death though not yet died. The believer’s body is spiritually dead, for it marches towards the grave and must die. This is quite distinct from one already deceased in the literal sense. Just as the Holy Spirit indwelling us is an ever current affair, so the Holy Spirit giving life to our mortal bodies must be a current experience too. We should realize further that it is not speaking of our regeneration here either, for the Holy Spirit is not imparting life to our spirit but is instead giving life to our bodies.
By this verse God informs His children of their bodily privilege, which is life to their mortal frames through His Spirit Who indwells them. It does not assert that the “body of sin” has become a holy body or that our “lowly body” has been transformed into a glorious one or that this mortal body has put on immortality. These cannot be realized in this life. The redemption of our earthen vessels must wait till the Lord comes and receives us to Himself. To change the nature of our body in this age is impossible. Therefore the real meaning of the Holy Spirit giving life to our bodies is that: (1) He will restore us when we are sick and (2) He will preserve us if we are not sick. In a word, the Holy Spirit will strengthen our earthly tents so that we can meet the requirements of God’s work and walk in order that neither our life nor the kingdom of God will suffer through the weakness of the body.
This is what God has provided for all His children. Yet how many Christians day by day genuinely experience this life given by His Spirit to their mortal bodies? Are there not many whose spiritual life is endangered by their physical condition—many who fall because of their physical weakness—many who cannot work actively for God because of the bondage of illness? The experience of Christians today does not correspond to God’s provision. Various reasons of course account for this discrepancy: some refuse to accept God’s provision for they maintain it has nothing to do with them; while others know and believe and desire this provision but have not presented their bodies a living sacrifice. These hold instead that God has furnished them strength to live through themselves. But those who truly wish to live for God and claim this promise and provision by faith shall experience the reality of the fullness of life in the body as given by the Holy Spirit.
“So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh” (v.12). This verse fully describes the proper relation between the believer and his body. Countless brethren are slaves to their fleshly frames. The spiritual life of many is totally imprisoned in their bodies! They exist as two different persons: when they withdraw to the inner man they have a feeling of being spiritual, nigh to God and abounding in life; but when they live in the outer flesh they feel fallen, carnal and alienated from God because they are obeying their bodies. Their body becomes a heavy burden to them. A little physical discomfort can alter their life. A slight illness or pain will perturb them and flood their hearts with self-love and self-pity. Under these circumstances it is impossible to follow a spiritual course.
The Apostle in using the words “so then” is merely continuing beyond what he has enunciated before. We believe this verse directly follows upon verses 10 and 11. The tenth declares the body is dead; the eleventh states the Holy Spirit gives life to the body. On the basis of these two bodily conditions, the Apostle can consequently conclude by saying: “so then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.” First, since the body is dead because of sin, we cannot live by following the body. To do so would be to commit sin. Second, because the Holy Spirit has given life to our mortal frames we need not live according to the flesh, since it has no authority any longer to bind our spiritual life. By this provision of God’s Spirit our inner life is competent to directly command the outer frame without interference. Previously we seemed to be debtors to the flesh—incapable of restricting its demands, desires and lusts—and lived according to the flesh by committing many sins. But now we have the provision of the Holy Spirit. Not only the lusts of the flesh have no control over us, even its weakness, illness and suffering have lost their grip.
Many argue that we should fulfill the legitimate desires and demands of the flesh, but the Apostle contends we owe nothing to it. Beyond preserving our earthly tents in a proper condition as God’s vessels, we owe the flesh nothing. Naturally the Bible never prohibits us from taking care of the body, else we would have to allot even more time and attention to it because of unnecessary sickness. Clothing, food and lodging are requisites; rest is also necessary. Nonetheless, what we stress is that our life should not be occupied solely by these concerns. True, we should eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, rest when weary, clothe ourselves when cold. Yet we must not permit these affairs to penetrate so deeply into our hearts that we make them partial or total objectives in our life. We must not love these necessaries. They should come and go according to need: they should not stay in us and become desires within. Sometimes for the sake of God’s work or some other overriding need, we must pommel our body and subdue it despite its own requirement. The Disciples’ love of sleep in the Garden of Gethsemane and the Lord’s endurance of hunger by the well of Sychar present a contrasting picture of defeat and victory over the legitimate requirement of the body. Because we are debtors to the flesh no longer, we ought not sin according to its lusts nor slacken in spiritual work due to physical weakness.
“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (v.13). Should Christians reject God’s provision and live by the flesh instead, they certainly will be punished.
“If you live according to the flesh you will die.” This word “die” and the word “live” in the next clause have several meanings. We will mention only one, which is the death of the body. According to sin our body is “dead”; according to consequence it is a “body of death”—that is, it is doomed to death; if we live by the flesh this body of death shall become a dying body. In following the flesh we on the one side are unfit to receive the life given to the body by the Holy Spirit, while on the other we shorten the days of our life on earth because all sins are harmful to the body. All sins manifest their effectiveness in the flesh, and that effect is death. Through the life given to our body by the Holy Spirit we should resist the death which is in it; if not, death will quickly complete its work there.
“But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” We should receive the Holy Spirit not only as the Giver of life to our earthen vessel but also as the Executor of its deeds. How can we expect to have Him give life to our fleshly frame if we neglect the work of putting to death its deeds? For only by putting to death its deeds through the Holy Spirit can we live. For the body to live its doing must first be put to nought, or else death shall be the immediate result. Herein do we discover the mistake of many. Christians assume they can live for themselves—using their fleshly frames for the things they wish to do—but at the same time expect the Holy Spirit to give life to their frames so that they can be healthy and without infirmity. Would He give life and strength to men to empower them to live for themselves? How utterly ridiculous! The life God gives to our body is for the purpose that we may thereafter live for Him. If the Holy Spirit were to grant health and strength to us who have not offered ourselves wholeheartedly to God, would that not bolster us to live more energetically for ourselves? Innumerable Christians seeking the Holy Spirit as life for their mortal frames should now see that they do not have this experience because they have neglected this essential point.
We cannot ourselves control our body, but through the Holy Spirit we can. He will empower us to put to death its many deeds. Believers have all experienced their lack of strength to deal with the fleshly lusts which provoke the members of the body to perform deeds gratifying to the flesh. But by the Holy Spirit they are fit to cope with the situation. This is very important to know. It is useless to try to crucify one’s self. Today many grasp the truth of being crucified with the Lord on the cross, yet few exhibit its reality. The truth of co-crucifixion is but a teaching to many saints. This is essentially due to a lack of clear understanding concerning the place of the Holy Spirit in the scheme of salvation. They do not apprehend how the Spirit moves together with the cross. We must realize that the cross without God’s Spirit is absolutely ineffective. Only the Holy Spirit can take what the cross has accomplished and make believers experience it. If we hear the truth of the cross but do not allow Him to work this truth into our lives, then we know nothing but a theory and an ideal.
A recognition “that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be annulled” (Rom. 6.6 Darby ) is indeed good; but we remain shackled by fleshly deeds if “by the Spirit” we have not “put to death the deeds of the body.” We have seen too many saints who understand most lucidly the truth of the cross and have accepted it yet in whom it is not one whit effective. They begin to wonder whether the reality of the practical salvation of the cross can ever be experienced in their lives. But they should not be surprised at all since they have forgotten that only the Holy Spirit can translate the cross into experience. He alone can substantiate salvation, nonetheless they forget Him. Unless believers abandon themselves and trust completely in the power of the Spirit to lay to rest the deeds of the body, the truth they profess to know will persist as mere theory. Only a putting to death by the power of the Holy Spirit will give life today to our mortal frame.
The passage in 1 Corinthians 6.12-20 sheds additional light on this matter of the believer’s body. Let us consider this passage verse by verse.
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything” (v.12). As substantiated by the verses following, the Apostle Paul is here writing about the body. He judges all things to be lawful because according to nature every demand of the body—such as eating, drinking or sex—is natural, reasonable and lawful (v.13). Yet he further judges that not every one of them is necessarily helpful nor should any enslave man. In other words, according to man’s natural existence the Christian may be permitted to do many things with his body, but as one who belongs to God he is additionally able not to do these things for the glory of God.
“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (v.13). The first half of this verse corresponds to the first half of the preceding verse. Food is lawful, but since food and stomach will eventually be destroyed, none is eternally useful. The latter half of the verse corresponds to that half of the preceding verse too. The Christian is capable of rising completely above the urge of sex and yielding his body wholly to the Lord (1 Cor. 7.34).
“The body is for the Lord.” This is a word having enormous import. Paul is speaking to us firstly about the issue of food. In the matter of eating and drinking the Christian is afforded a chance to prove in practice that “the body is for the Lord.” Man originally fell on this very point of food; the Lord Jesus was tempted in the wilderness on this same issue as well. Numerous Christians do not know how to glorify God in their eating and drinking. They do not eat and drink simply to keep their body fit for the Lord’s use but indulge to satisfy their personal desires. We should understand that the body is for the Lord and not for ourselves; hence we should refrain from using it for our pleasure. Food ought not hinder our fellowship with God since it is to be taken purely to preserve the body in health.
The Apostle mentions the subject of immorality too. This is a sin which defiles the body: it directly contravenes the principle that “the body is for the Lord.” Immorality here includes not just looseness outside the marriage relationship but overindulgence within marriage as well. The body is for the Lord, wholly for the Lord, not for oneself. Thus license even in legitimate sexual intercourse is prohibited also.
The Apostle Paul’s intent in this passage is to show us that any excess of the flesh must be thoroughly resisted. The body is for the Lord; the Lord alone can use it. The indulgence of any part solely for personal gratification is not pleasing to Him. Other than as an instrument of righteousness, the body is not to be used in any other way. It, like our entire being, cannot serve two masters. Even in such natural affairs as food and sex the body should be engaged exclusively to fill needs. While needs do require satisfaction, the body is nonetheless for the Lord and not for food and sex. Nowadays many Christians aspire to sanctification of their spirit and soul, not fully appreciating how greatly sanctification in these realms depends on sanctification of the body. They forget that unless all nerve responses, sensations, actions, conduct, works, food and speech which belong to the body are utterly for the Lord, they can never arrive at perfection.
“The body is for the Lord.” This signifies that though the outer flesh belongs to the Lord it is entrusted to man for him to maintain for Him. How few are those who know and practice this truth! Many saints today are stricken with sickness, weakness and suffering; God is chastening them that they may present their bodies to Him a living sacrifice. They would be healed if they yielded them completely to God. God wants them to know that the body is for the Lord, not for themselves. If they continue to live according to their wishes they shall see the scourge of God remain upon them. All who are sick should take these words seriously to heart.
“And the Lord for the body.” This is an incredibly wonderful statement! We usually think of the Lord as saving only our spirit and our soul, but here it is said that “the Lord (is) for the body.” Christians look upon the Lord Jesus as having come to save their spirit and soul alone, that the body is useless, having no value in spiritual life and not graciously provided for in God’s redemptive scheme. But it is plainly enunciated here that “the Lord is for the body.” The Lord, affirms God, is equally for the earthen vessel which man lightly esteems.
Why do believers overlook their fleshly frames? It is because they erroneously look upon the Lord Jesus as saving them merely from their sins and not also from the sickness of their body. Hence they can only resort to human methods for the cure of their physical weakness and illness. When they look into the four Gospels they find that the Lord Jesus healed more bodies than He saved souls; yet they spiritualize the affair entirely by interpreting these infirmities as being spiritual sicknesses. They may concede that the Lord Jesus did heal physical sicknesses while on earth, but they believe too that He heals only spiritual diseases today. They are willing to hand their spiritual ills over to the Lord for healing but take it for granted that they must go elsewhere for their physical ills, concluding that the Lord will have nothing to do with those. They forget that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13.8).
It is quite customary among today’s saints to assume the attitude that God apparently has made no provision for the body. They limit the redemption of Christ to the spirit and the soul and cross out the body completely. They disregard the facts that the Lord Jesus healed physical ills in His day and that the Apostles continued to experience this power of healing in their day. No other explanation for their attitude can be put forward than that of unbelief. The Word of God, however, declares the Lord is also for the body.
This is related to what was said just before. Our body is for the Lord and simultaneously the Lord is for our body too. We see in this the joint relationship of God and man. God gives His Own Self totally to us that we may offer ourselves completely to Him. Upon offering ourselves to Him He will again give Himself to us according to our measure of committal. The Lord wishes us to know that He has given His body for us; He also wants us to know that if our body is genuinely for Him we will experience Him for it. The meaning of the body for the Lord is that we present ours wholly to Him to live for Him; while the Lord for the body implies that, having accepted our consecration, He will grant His life and power to our bodily frames. He will care for, preserve and nourish this physical frame of ours.
Aware of its weakness, uncleanness, sinfulness and deadness, it seems scarcely conceivable that the Lord is also for the body. This we shall nonetheless understand if we contemplate God’s way of salvation. When the Lord Jesus was born the Word became flesh. He possessed a body. While on the cross, “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2.24). United to Him by faith, our bodies were crucified with Him as well; and thus has He released them from the power of sin. In Christ this fleshly tent of ours has been resurrected and ascended to heaven. The Holy Spirit is presently dwelling in us. Therefore may we say that the Lord is for our body—not just for our spirit and soul but for our body too.
The Lord for the body embraces several meanings: (1) It conveys the idea that the Lord will deliver the body from sin. Nearly every sin is related somewhat to it. Quite a few sins arise from special physiological causes. Feasting for example is an indulgence of one’s physical taste and drinking is a catering to one’s bodily lust. Many moments of anger are triggered by physical discomforts. Oversensitive nerves may cause people to be brittle and harsh. Peculiar personalities often result from a peculiar physiological make-up. Many notorious sinners physically are constructed differently from normal persons. Even so, with all these manifestations, the Lord is still for the body. If we offer ours to Him, acknowledging Him as Lord of everything and claiming His promise by faith, we shall see how the Lord can deliver us from ourselves. Irrespective of how we physiologically are made, even possessing special weaknesses, we can overcome our sins through the Lord.
(2) The Lord is additionally for our physical ills. As he destroys sin so will He heal diseases. He is for every matter related to our body; He is consequently for our sicknesses also. Diseases are but the manifestation of the power of sin in our bodies. The Lord Jesus is able to deliver us from sicknesses as well as from sins.
(3) The Lord is also for our living in the body. He will be its strength and life so that it may live by Him. He desires us to experience in our daily walk the power of His resurrection in order that our body too may live by Him.
(4) The Lord is equally for the glorification of the body. This pertains to the future. Today we attain great heights if we walk by Him, yet that does not change the nature of our body. But the day shall come when the Lord shall redeem it and transform this lowly frame into a likeness of His glorious body.
We must underscore the significance of the body being for the Lord. If we yearn to experience the Lord for the body we first must practice the body for the Lord. It is impossible to experience the Lord for the body if we use our bodies according to our wants and for our pleasure instead of presenting them for living entirely unto the Lord. Yet were we to hand ourselves over completely to God, yielding our members as instruments of righteousness and conducting ourselves in all matters according to God’s order, He most surely would accord us His life and power.
“And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (v.14). This is to explain the last clause of the preceding verse which is “the Lord for the body.” The resurrection of the Lord is a bodily one: our future resurrection will therefore be bodily too. As God has already raised the body of the Lord Jesus so will He also raise ours from the dead. These two facts are equally certain. Hence this is how the Lord is for our body: He will raise us up by His power. It is yet future, nevertheless today we may foretaste the power of His resurrection.
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!” (v.15). The first question is noticeably unusually phrased. In other places, such as 1 Corinthians 12.27, it merely states “you are the body of Christ and individually members of it”; but only in this passage does it say “your bodies are members of Christ.” Our whole being is indeed a member of Christ; why, then, is the body specified here? We naturally assume that our spiritual life is a member of Christ for is it not spiritual? But how can this corporeal frame be considered a member of Christ? We are verily witnessing an exceedingly wonderful truth.
We must understand our union with Christ. God does not look at believers individually; He includes them together within His view of Christ. No Christian can exist outside of Christ, because his daily strength to live is supplied by Him. To God, the union of believers with Christ is an altogether definite reality. The “body of Christ” is not just a spiritual term, it is truly a fact. Just as a physical body is joined to a head, so believers are joined to Christ. In God’s eye, our union with Christ is perfect, unlimited and absolute. To word it another way, our spirits unite with the spirit of Christ (most important of all), our souls unite with the soul of Christ (the union of wills, the union of affections, and the union of minds), and our bodies unite with the body of Christ. If our union with Christ is complete how can the corporeal part of our being be excluded? If we are the members of Christ our bodies too are the members of Christ.
Unquestionably perfect union will not be achieved until the time of future resurrection. Even so, our union with Christ is already a present verity. This teaching is vital, for what comfort we have when we know that the body of Christ is for our bodies. All truths may be experienced. Do we have any physiological defect, sickness, suffering or weakness? Remember, Christ’s body is for our bodies. Ours are united to His; accordingly we may draw life and strength from His body for the supply of our physical needs. Everyone who has bodily defects should stand on this union with Christ by faith and draw from His resources for their fleshly needs.
The Apostle marvels that the Corinthian believers could be ignorant of such a clear truth. Had they truly apprehended this teaching they would have encountered many spiritual experiences as well as dealt responsibly with various practical warnings; such as, if these bodies are members of Christ could we have dared make them members of a prostitute? For the Apostle right away inquires: “Do you not know that He who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For as it is written, “The two shall become one’ “ (v.16). Paul develops this doctrine of union most effectively. “He who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her,” that is, he becomes a member of the prostitute. A believer has been united with Christ, hence he is a member of Christ. Where will this leave Christ if this member of His becomes a member of a prostitute? The Apostle forbids such a thing.
“But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (v.17) . In verses 15-17 we can behold the mystery of our body’s union with Christ. The thought of this seventeenth verse is that if man in joining his body to that of a prostitute becomes one flesh and also a member of her, how could our bodies not become the members of Christ if we are united to the Lord and become one spirit with Him? To join the body to a prostitute will effect the union of the two bodies: how much more must the two bodies become one if our whole being is joined to Christ!
Paul views the first step in uniting with the Lord as becoming “one spirit with Him.” This is a union in the spirit. But he does not regard the believer’s body as something unrelated. He concedes that the primary union is in the spirit, yet this fusion of the spirit will consequentially cause the believer’s body to be a member of Christ. This ultimately proves that the body is for the Lord and the Lord is also for the body.
The issue before us is union. The children of God ought to perceive clearly their position in Christ, how there is not the slightest gap in their union with Him. Their bodies are members of Christ through which His life may be exhibited. They could not expect much if the Lord were weak and sick; but since the opposite is true, they undeniably can obtain health, power and life from him.
We need to call to mind one point, however. We should at no time harbor the thought that because the body is the member of Christ we must therefore physically feel every spiritual fellowship and affair there as though we must have evidence in the body. If we must feel the presence of God in our fleshly frame—if He must take direct control of it and shake it—if the Holy Spirit must fill our frame and make His will known through it—or if the Holy Spirit must assume management of the tongue of the body and speak—then our body has supplanted our spirit in the latter’s works. And the result will be that our spirit loses its operation as its work is taken over by the body. But our earthen vessel is not capable of enduring such strenuous labor, hence it often becomes weakened. Furthermore, the evil powers as disembodied spirits crave human bodies. Their chief aim is to possess man’s physical frame. A Christian who has his body extended beyond its normal capacity gives opportunity to the evil spirits to work. This is in accordance with the law of the spiritual realm. Assuming that God and His Spirit will commune with him in the body, the Christian naturally anticipates experiencing such fellowship there. But God and His Spirit never communicate directly with one’s body; God communicates through His Spirit in the believer’s spirit. If a child of God persists in seeking to experience God in his body, the evil spirits shall seize the opportunity to come in and shall accord him what he nai/vely seeks. The consequences can be none other than occupation by evil spirits. But as to the union of the believer’s body with Christ, this fact explains how it is able to receive God’s life and be strengthened. Owing to the spirit’s noble position, one must be doubly cautious lest he allow his body to usurp its work!
“Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body” (v.18). The Bible considers immorality or fornication as more serious than other sins because it has a special relationship to our bodies which are the members of Christ. Need we wonder why the Apostle emphatically and persistently persuades Christians to avoid fornication? We look at it in terms of a moral uncleanness, but the Apostle stresses a far different aspect of it. No sin other than fornication can occasion our body to be united with another; wherefore this is a sin against the body. This implies that no sin but fornication can render a member of Christ a member of a prostitute. Fornication is sinning against the members of Christ. Since Christians are united with Christ, fornication becomes doubly abominable. Or to view it from another perspective: by seeing the abomination of fornication we can appreciate how very real is our body’s union with Christ.
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” (v.19) This is the second instance the Apostle Paul asks “Do you not know?” The first occurred in verse 15 which spoke of “the body for the Lord.” In this second instance he is referring to “the Lord for the body.” Earlier Paul had expressed it in a general way as “you are God’s temple” (3.16); now he says specifically that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” It indicates that the habitation of the Holy Spirit is extended beyond the spirit to the body. We commit a signal error if we consider the body His primary dwelling place, for He dwells initially in our spirit where He holds fellowship with us. However, this does not preclude His life flowing from the spirit to make our body alive. We are deceived if we expect the Holy Spirit to descend primarily on our bodies; but we shall suffer loss, too, if we limit His dwelling place to our spirits.
We should recognize the place of the body in God’s design of redemption. Christ sets apart our fleshly frames that we may be filled with the Holy Spirit and become His instruments. Because He has died, been resurrected and been glorified, He is now qualified to give His Holy Spirit to our body. As in the past our soul life permeated our body, so now His Spirit shall permeate it. His life will flow into every member, and He will give us life and power far abundantly beyond what we can think.
That our body constitutes a temple of the Holy Spirit is a sure fact; and it can be livingly experienced as well. Yet many are like the Corinthian believers who forgot this glorious possibility. Though God’s Spirit does dwell in them, He seems non-existent to them. We need to exercise faith to believe, to acknowledge and to accept this fact of God. If we draw on this fact by faith we shall discover that the Spirit will bring not only the holiness, joy, righteousness and love of Christ to our souls, but also life, power, health and strength to our weak, weary and sick bodies. He will give to our earthen vessels the life of Christ together with the vital elements of His glorious body. When our body has truly died with Christ, that is, when it is subject completely to Him, all self-will and independent action denied and nothing sought but to be a temple of the Lord, then the Holy Spirit shall assuredly manifest the life of the risen Christ in our mortal frame. How good it is for us to genuinely experience the Lord in healing and in strengthening, in His being our health and life! If we see our tent as a temple of the Holy Spirit we shall follow Him in wonderment and in love!
“You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (vv.19-20). You are members of Christ, you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, you are not your own. You were purchased by God with a price. Everything of yours belongs to Him, especially your body. The union of Christ with you and the seal of the Holy Spirit within you proves that your body particularly is God’s. “So glorify God in your body.” Brethren, God wishes us to honor Him there. He wants us to glorify Him both through the consecration of this “body for the Lord” of ours and also through the grace exhibited by the “Lord for the body” of His. Let us be sober and watchful lest we use our bodies for ourselves or permit them to fall into a condition as though the Lord were not for the body. Thus we shall glorify God and allow Him to demonstrate His power freely in delivering us from weakness, sickness and suffering as well as from self-interest, self-love and sin.